During a short stay in Chicago Dr. Talmage preached in his son’s church, and then hurried home to begin his duties in his own church. Duty was the Doctor’s master key; with it he locked himself away from the mediocre, and unlocked his way to ultimate freedom of religious impulse. For a long while he had formed a habit of preaching without recompense, as he would have desired to do all his life, because he felt that the power of preaching was a gift from God, a trust to be transmitted without cost to the people. He never missed preaching on Sunday, paying his own expenses to whatever pulpit he was invited to occupy. There were so many invitations that he was usually able to choose. It was this conviction that led to his ultimate resignation from his church in Washington, that he might be free to expound the Scriptures wherever he was.
He was always so happy it was hard to believe that he was overworking; yet I feared his labour of love would end in exhaustion and possible illness. Everything in the world was beautiful to him, and yet beauty was not a matter of externals with him. It radiated from him, even when it was not about him. Especially was this noticeable when we were away together on one of his short lecturing trips. At these times we were quite alone, and then, without interruptions, in the sequestered domain of some country hotel he would admit me into the wonderland of his inner hopes, his plans for the future, his ideas of life and people and happiness. Once we were staying in one of these country hotels obviously pretentious, but very uncomfortable—the sort of hotel where the walls of the room oppress you, and the furniture astonishes you, and there are no private baths. He sat down in the largest chair, literally beaming with delight.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” he said; “now I take my home with me; before I used to be so much alone. Now I have someone to talk to.”
There was nothing comparative in his happiness; everything was made perfect for him by the simplicity of his appreciation. I used to look forward to these trips as one might look forward to an excursion into some new and unexpected transport of existence, for he always had new wonders of heart and mind to reveal in these obscure byways we explored together. They were all too short, and yet too full for time to record them in a diary. These were the hours that one puts away in the secret chamber of unwritten and untold feeling. I turn again to the pages of our scrap book, as one turns to the dictionary, for reserve of language.
In November of 1898 I find there a clipping that reminds me of the day Dr. Talmage and I spent at the home of Senator Faulkner, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The Anglo-American Commission was in session in Washington then, and during the following winter. The Joint High Commission was the official title, and we were invited by Senator Faulkner with these men to get a glimpse of that rare Americanism known the world over as Southern hospitality. The foreign members of the Commission were Lord Herschel, Sir Wilfred Laurier, Sir Louis Davis, and Sir Richard Cartwright. Our host was one of the Americans on the Commission.